THE BLOG

What Does 2016 Hold for the European Refugee Crisis?

03/01/2016 18:57 GMT | Updated 02/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Unless you were living under a rock last year, you will have probably heard about the European refugee crisis. More than a million people attempted to flee the Middle East and North Africa to Europe by sea in 2015, according to latest estimates by the UN Refugee Agency. What started out as a slow trickle of refugees soon became a flood, leading to a crisis which caught many Western governments off guard.

Although the reporting has now waned, the intricacies and tragedy of this mass migration still remain. So as world leaders race to solidify a cohesive plan for resettlement, let's take a look at what needs to happen in 2016 for this to be a success.

As the crisis exploded in the latter part of last year, so too did the hyperbole and rhetoric. Innumerable pledges were thrown around and there was great talk of committed action. So far, however, much of this stands unfulfilled. The European response has yet to be unilateral, with current plans seeing constant change and political obstruction. This must be addressed in 2016. If Germany is to lead the European response, for example, it can't be seen to be revising its open door policy and the various civil rights it would grant Syrian refugees, as was reported in November.

Other nations, such as Poland, should reopen their borders to all migrants. The country's crossings were sealed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, but such attitudes only serve to reinforce the image of the refugee as a burden or, most wrongly of all, a terrorist. Whether the reversal of this will happen soon remains to be seen; Germany has been unsuccessful in persuading other European states to take their share of refugees and the next high-level summit on the crisis doesn't look set to happen until September 2016.

The past 12 months have also seen the question refugee 'authenticity' being dragged up. Arguments over just who is more in need - refugees seeking human rights, or migrants in search of better quality of life, have been doing the rounds on social media. Our considerate attention to charity quickly became distracted by questions like: how much are we prepared to give? To whom? Thankfully, countries are already pushing ahead with new strategies for resettlement, which will act to counter this debate; the UK plans to pluck Syrians - who have already been processed as refugees - directly from the refugee camps of Jordan and Lebanon.

The outcome for those wishing to flee the conflict in Libya, however, is not so clear. Unlike Jordan and Lebanon, Libya does not have vast camps where controlled processing can take place. This is compounded by the country's continuing social tumult, which has left it too dangerous for many NGOs to operate. In the coming months, it would be reassuring to see attention given to the country's political disarray in order to eliminate the deadly sea crossings, which have already taken so many lives.

Lastly, we must not fail to neglect the rise of the far-right. This year, keep an eye out for wild nationalist ideologies, however comedic they may seem. It can be widely argued that 2015 was the year when xenophobia went mainstream, largely thanks to Donald Trump and the constant threat of economic doom, which all migration apparently brings. In response, a sustained campaign must be waged; Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, has already warned that some Eastern European countries could lose some EU budget funds, should they not do enough to accommodate migrants. More of this, please.

So, in the spirit of New Year, what can we do to help those in crisis? Are there any last-minute resolutions to be made?

Well, maybe. The thing is, the refugee crisis now shares so few parallels to other events, it is difficult to know where to begin. It could be likened to trying to extinguish a volcano with a bucket of sand - a valiant, but futile course of action. For volcanos are vast, unpredictable, and still a mystery to most, and so too is the European refugee crisis.

All that being said, if you want to see success in 2016, then a useful place to start would be support. Begin by supporting those in crisis, continue to broaden your understanding, and pass on that knowledge to others. It will go a long way to making refugees feel at home in 2016.